Mumbai: A solitary goal from Rahul Bheke in 120 minutes of a closely fought contest saw Bengaluru FC being crowned champions of the 2019 Indian Super League at the Mumbai Football Arena after a 1-0 win over FC Goa on Sunday.
The 28-year-old guided Dimas Delgado’s cross in the 116th minute into the top corner to help the Blues win their sixth title, adding to their two I-Leagues, two Federation Cups and a Super Cup crown.
With this, BFC have also sealed their spot in the next edition of the AFC Cup.
While there was no surprise in the starting line-up for Bengaluru FC, Sergio Lobera started with Ahmed Jahouh, who was substituted against Mumbai City FC in the second leg of the semi-final, in the midfield.
The first-half turned out to be an all-out tactical battle between the two sides. While Carles Cuadrat tried to ensure BFC focused on possession and keeping a slightly higher line, Sergio Lobera took a conservative approach and set-up to break on the counter.
The 2018 finalists looked set to take the lead five minutes into the game. Miku was through on goal with some nifty footwork but Naveen Kumar was quick to sense the danger and rushed in to nullify the threat. Later in the half, the Venezuelan was also on the receiving end of an inviting cross from his skipper but only managed to head it over the crossbar.
Chhetri also found space for a couple of attempts just outside the penalty box in the 17th minute but the captain dragged the shot wide of the goal on both occasions.
Goa too had their early chance, fourteen minutes in, but their talisman Ferran Corominas fluffed the shot after a fabulous switch ball from Jahouh released Jakichand Singh, who was able to find the striker.
The game got heated up 10 minutes away from the close of the first half, with Juan Fernandes and Mourtada Fall producing forceful challenges, but only the latter was penalized by the referee with a yellow card.
The half came to a tame end as Mandar Rao Desai, the captain of the Gaurs, had to be taken off with a hamstring injury. Once he went down the second time, Lobera brought on 21-year-old Saviour Gama to play on the left.
Goa did have a much better say in the second half, dominating possession and producing a couple of clear chances early on.
Alejandro Barrera and Jahouh went into the books early in the second half. While Xisco Hernandez was nudged from the back by the Moroccan, the Spaniard got hold of Edu Bedia's shorts and brought him down on the turn.
However, it was Goa that had the best chance in the opening moments of the second-half. Brandon Fernandes chipped into the box from just outside but Bedia’s glancing header was directed straight at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. The move was repeated a few minutes later, only this time Coro was not able to get on the end of it.
The Gaurs did manage to produce a clear shot on goal in the 67th minute, with Jakichand’s clever footwork allowing him to find an open Jahouh at the edge of the box, but the shot was fired straight at Gurpreet.
Miku nearly sealed the game at the stroke of the 81st minute. Udanta’s cross found Chettri and Xisco found the striker space with the backheel but the toe-poke struck the woodwork and Peter’s latched on avoiding a follow-up.
The 33-year-old had another golden chance in added time, but Fall ensured the high shot was blocked away from goal. Goa also broke through but Jakichand’s cross was deflected over the crossbar by the BFC defence before the referee blew the whistle, calling an end to the second half.
There was nothing much to cheer for the fans in the first 15 minutes of extra time but the end was sour for FC Goa. A coming together between Jahouh and Miku saw the Moroccan getting tripped but he left a trailing foot on the 33-year-old’s mid-section and a scuffle followed. Both received yellow cards, but the latter had to walk off as it was his second booking for the night.
With a man down, FC Goa had to drop back as BFC tried to get the crucial goal. Jakichand was substituted for Manvir Singh in the 109th minute. Cuadrat also brought on Kean Lewis to get some pace in the wings, and moved Chettri in the middle.
But the deadlock was finally broken in the 116th minute as Bheke headed home from box to send the West Block Blues into delirium, and help BFC better their finish in 2018.